Friday, February 13, 2009


From Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary:


ho·lis·tic, \hō-ˈlis-tik\, adjective

1 : of or relating to holism

2 : relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts

While holistic is by no means uncommon, I wondered the other day "Why does a term referring to wholes seems more like it is referring to holes?"

The answer begins to be found in the first definition. Holism and holistic were introduced into the lexicon by General J.C. Smuts in 1926. Holism regards "the theory...[of] nature as consisting of wholes." (Online Etym. Dict.) Gen. Smuts took the term from the Greek holos (ah, the answer) meaning "whole".

Of course this begs for a complementary question: "Where does hole come from?" For this homophone, we can thank the Germanic roots of English (as opposed to the Romantic roots of our term of inquiry). Hole can be traced back to the Gothic term us-hulon meaning "to hollow out", which later manifest in German as hohl meaning "hollow".

No comments: